Zuppas Wine Dinner Event By Guest Blogger Dan Zehr

The wine pairing dinner two weeks ago went off without a hitch. We were fortunate to have Dan Zehr, from the blog Plattertalk, attend and write a great blog post summing up the evening and giving a descriptive overview of the food, wine, and experience as a whole. Please read what he has to say here…

Wine Dinner Event at Zuppas – Market, Cafe & Catering. Neenah, Wiscosnin USA

A couple of evenings ago we had the privilege of attending a wine dinner at a one of this area’s most successful and longstanding eating establishments, Zuppas, right here in Neenah, Wisconsin.  The fact that this was in Neenah isn’t all that relative, unless you were among those lucky enough to get a seat.  This post is meant to illustrate what happens when great restaurateurs facilitate a commingling of the community at large with particular facets of the culinary community.   This was a night when fine food was introduced to fine wine and I must say, the two got along quite well.

I’ve known chef Peter Kuenzi at a peripheral level for quite a few years now.  This fact alone is not unusual, given the fact that he is the man behind what has proven to be one of the most enduring and well known eating establishments in the fox valley region of east central Wisconsin.  Everyone knows Peter.  My initial interest in him however was a little different than the thousands of people who have eaten his food over the years.   Chef Peter is a graduate of Hyde Park, New York’s world renown Culinary Institute of America, the same place my sister did her tenure as a chef-in-training and a center of all things food where I have visited many times.  I may have even donned a uniform and was smuggled into a couple of the learning kitchens as a student, once or twice.  I may have, it was so many years ago and I just can’t say for certain…

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Way back when, I spent many, many hours, even days, being my sister’s gofer in the various kitchens she commanded.  Spending an hour or so watching Peter and his team offered a silent thrill for me.  Efficient kitchens are operated with good teams that function best with good leadership.  It was exhilarating for me to see this very scenario in action.   Most of the players were unaware that I had a very good understanding of their moves, their language, and what it was they were doing.  I had been in their positions countless times,  and I had an acute awareness that what they were doing was going to culminate in an outcome of excellence.  The night proved me to be spot on.

For the evening’s wine paring dinner, Chef Peter collaborated with Tim Long from Vino Veritas Artisan Wines.  Tim is a Certified Wine Educator and wine merchant.   For the purpose of this evening’s dinner, it was effectively a match made in food and wine heaven.

A couple of dozen food and wine aficionados were lucky enough to attend this limited-seating dinner.   By a stroke of my own goof fortune I was contacted by some of the good folks from Zuppa’s marketing division and asked if Platter Talk would be interested in collaborating for some social media coverage of this wine dinner.  I enthusiastically accepted the invitation.

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The dinner started off with a 1st course featuring a Red Snapper Crudo with Grapefruit, Watercress and Radish.  The mellow and non-fishy taste of the Red Snapper went beautifully with the contrasting but complimentary flavors provided by the other components of this appetizer created by Chef Peter.

Zepaltas Lake Country Sauvignon Blanc, 2012, was the first featured wine of the evening. This crisp,  energetic Sonoma Coastal variety with subtle  hints of smoky herbs on the back end paired exceptionally well with the Red Snapper appetizer.  Bottles of this Sauvignon Blanc retail for around $18.

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The evening’s 2nd course featured a Lobster Pot Pie with Root Vegetables, Tarragon and Celeriac.  This was a natural progression from the preceding appetizer and and lent it’s own unique connotations for the looming autumn season.

Zepaltas Chardonnay (Russian River Valley) 2011 was paired with the second course of the dinner.  As Tim pointed out to the guests, the expression of citrus fruits by this wine, lifted by suggestions of white flowers and ginger,  provided a snappy finish and almost spicy vibrancy – a perfect accompaniment to the Lobster Pot Pie.  This Chardonnay can be purchased for about $26 per bottle.

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The dinner’s 3rd course showcased a salad of Autumn Greens with Apples, Wild Rice, Squash Seeds, Goat Cheese, and Cranberry Vinaigrette – all crowned with a vibrant nasturtium blossom.  With this salad, Chef Peter aptly demonstrated  the pleasing confluence of taste, texture, and beauty.

The wine paired for the salad course was Novy “Four Mile Creek” White 2012.  This wine commands an interest at multiple levels.  Four Mile Creek White Table Wine has distinguished itself with consistent “Best Buy” accolades. In fact, since 2010, there have been only 21 California white wines under $15 rated 88 points or higher by the Wine Spectator and 3 of those have been Four Mile Creek White Table wines.  The components of this blend include 66% Viognier, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, and 9% Gewurztraminer – well-appreciated varieties by nearly everyone in attendance and thus  particularly well received by the evening’s guests.

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A 4th course entree of Braised Lamb with Autumn Squash, Mint Pesto and Swiss Chard deliciously pronounced the fall season, affirming the prelude of earlier courses.

The evening’s only red wine came as a Siduri Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) 2011. Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley is known for its Pinot Noir.  This blend of fruit from five vineyards does a nice job of representing the typical tastes of deep, lush cherry aromas and flavors.  Retailing for about $32 a bottle, this was the perfect wine to connect the final two courses of this wine dinner.

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The evening finished off with a seasonal Trio of Autumn:  Pumpkin Tart, Chocolate Pumpkin Creme Brulee, and Caramel Apple.   Facilitated by the Pino Noir, this 5th course flowed seamlessly from the the braised lamb, effectively capping off and sealing the magical expereince of the night’s food and wine experience.

The wine dinner closed with the presentation of Chef Peter and the staff of Zuppas, all were received with enthusiastic applause from those in attendance.  Like any conscientious restaurateur, Peter worked his way around to each guest, welcoming them and taking feedback from each person.  This is a practice I love to see among chefs, it shows their appreciation for the patronage of diners and their genuine concern of the meal being up to par.  Sadly, it seems this tradition is less common than in years past which in my opinion sends a message of complacency from the kitchen; there was none of that here tonight.

I’ve heard rumblings and talk of another highly anticipated wine and food event at Zuppas, in the near future.  Do yourself a favor, stay in touch with Chef Peter and his establishment and if possible try and get a seat for their next wine dinner event.   More information and ongoing events and news from Zuppas is regularly posted on their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/zuppas.  Give their page a “Like” to stay up to date on the latest from Zuppas.

Chef Peter Kuenzi

– See more at: http://www.plattertalk.com/2013/09/wine-dinner-event-at-zuppas-market-cafe.html#sthash.PihNHbGS.dpuf

Dan, thank you so much for attending and being so attentive to the details we try to include in a dining experience at Zuppas. We hope you come back soon! Follow his blog and read more about food, wine, friends, cooking, and his dining experiences. And stay tuned to the Zuppas facebook page for updates about when our next wine dinner will be!

About Zuppas

Since 1999 Chef Peter Kuenzi has been offering discerning Fox Valley residents fresh, fast, urban gourmet fare to suit their busy lives. Located in Neenah's Shops at Mahler Farms, Zuppas serves breakfast, lunch and dinner for dine in or take out.
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